Laura Green Zeilinger has served as the Director of the DC Department of Human Services since January 2015. Laura is responsible for guiding DHS’s 1,500 personnel and budget of $933 million. Laura strives to empower every District resident to reach their full potential by providing meaningful connections to work opportunities, economic assistance, and supportive services.
Laura has focused on implementing solutions to end homelessness, enhancing the system of support offered through TANF, improving outcomes for youth who show signs of risk, and modernizing the Department’s customer service delivery model.
Under her leadership, DHS launched a homelessness prevention program and other reforms that led to a 78 percent decrease in family homelessness between 2016 and 2021 while maintaining year-round access to shelter. She has also led the District in effectively ending chronic family homelessness in 2022.
Laura has developed a new model for emergency shelter grounded in neighborhood-based, service-enriched programs. Working with stakeholders and Council, DHS implemented an overhaul of the TANF Program to end the 60-month cliff and better support families to meet their employment and education goals. In partnership with the Office of the Attorney General’s Office and law enforcement agencies, DHS expanded youth diversion programs that strengthen families and help young people find a path to safe and healthy development.
The Department also completed a business process redesign for the administration of benefits that resulted in approximately 85 percent of applications, renewals, and changes being completed during initial customer interaction.
Laura is an attorney with a long-standing commitment to underserved populations.
Since 2020, Laura has led the DHS team in adapting to changing circumstances and needs of residents due to the COVID-19 public health emergency. Many DHS frontline workers worked throughout the pandemic without interruption to ensure seamless access to services and supports for the District’s most vulnerable residents. Their tireless efforts led to the development and expansion of rental and utility assistance programs; the creation of isolation and medical harm reduction efforts for residents; and the expansion of public benefit supports and online application processes.
Laura established the DHS Bold Racial Accountability and Vision for Equity (B.R.AV.E.) Team. The cross-functional representative group works to identify the agency’s racial equity gaps and develop and implement sustainable processes and programs to make DHS a place where all employees and District residents can thrive.
Prior to her appointment as DHS director, Laura served as the executive director of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), where she was responsible for the implementation of Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness, an effort that includes the coordination of federal homelessness policies among 19 federal departments and agencies, as well as partnerships with state and local communities, non-profits, and the private sector.
She joined USICH in 2011 after previously serving as deputy director for program operations for DHS where she led the creation of more than 1,000 units of permanent supportive housing as part of the Homeless No More Plan and designed and implemented the District’s Housing First Initiative. Before her work with DHS, Laura served as the Mayor’s liaison to DHS and the Office of Disability Rights. She has also led international economic development efforts, managing a technical assistance project to reform the pension system in The Republic of Kazakhstan.
Laura is an alumna of Sarah Lawrence College and a graduate of the Washington College of Law at American University. She and her family have lived in the District for more than two decades.